Spain, Germany Fight Wildfires, Heat

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(Newser)

Firefighters in Spain and Germany struggled to contain wildfires on Sunday during an unusual heat wave in Western Europe for this time of year. The worst damage in Spain has been in the northwest province of Zamora, where over 61,000 acres has been consumed, regional authorities said. German officials said that residents of three villages near Berlin were ordered to leave their homes because of an approaching wildfire Sunday, the AP reports. A lack of rainfall this year combined with gusting winds have produced the conditions for the fires.

Spanish authorities said that after three days of high temperatures, high winds, and low humidity, some respite came with dropping temperatures Sunday morning. That allowed for about 650 firefighters supported by water-dumping aircraft to establish a perimeter around the fire that started in Zamora’s Sierra de la Culebra. Authorities warned there was still danger that an unfavorable shift in weather could revive the blaze that caused the evacuation of 18 villages. Spain has been on alert for an outbreak of intense wildfires as the country swelters under record temperatures. Experts link the abnormally hot period for Europe to climate change. Thermometers have risen above 104 degrees in many Spanish cities throughout the week—temperatures usually expected in August.

Authorities said gusting winds of up to 43 mph that changed course erratically made it tough for crews. “The fire was able to cross a reservoir some 500 meters wide and reach the other side, to give you an idea of the difficulties we faced,” one official said. There have been no reports of lives lost, but the flames reached the outskirts of some villages both in Zamora and in Navarra. Videos shot by passengers in cars showed flames licking the sides of roads. In other villages, residents looked on in despair as black plumes rose from nearby hills. In Germany, strong winds have been fanning the blaze about 30 miles southwest of Berlin, prompting officials to declare an emergency Saturday. Germany has seen numerous wildfires in recent days following a period of intense heat and little rain.

(Read more heat wave stories.)

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